#38: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - "Freak Out!" (1966)

Being primarily a Captain Beefheart fan, I thought it would be unfair of me not to give Frank Zappa a turn. Their "mutually useful but volatile" friendship is the stuff of music legend, with both of them forever changing the landscape of what rock music could achieve, not only sonically but societally. Zappa in particular is often cited as the soundtrack to the cultural revolution of the '60s - and tends to soundtrack vox pop retrospective documentaries of the time. But, wow, listening to it now is a bleak experience.

Intended as a satire of the pop culture of Zappa's day, it's hard to get a grip on what, exactly, its principles are. Call me an old-fashioned square but good satire has a core principle to it, a direct address to what is wrong or hurtful but hinting at or suggesting something better. There's nothing to be found here of that vision for a better world, just endless repetition of self-obsessed nastiness that sounds a little too rooted in genuine desire for it to be a parody of someone else's greed. 

Oh, and funny. It has to be funny. There's more punch than punchline here and even that feels weak and smarmy.

There are some funky-sounding hooks here and what struck me is how straightforward '60s pop so many of the songs are before getting on to the more hallucinatory opuses towards the end of the album. This must have been a bizarre thing to get your head round at the time because, other than Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, Freak Out! was the only other double album release. So to have one album that sounded much like anything else out there but with lyrics that were most definitely in your face, to then flip to the other side and meet Suzy Creamcheese whilst melodies melted... I mean, that's a heck of a journey, and I appreciate that. But it's still just plain nasty.

Beefheart 4 ever <3